Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mailing Copyrighted Stuff to Yourself

Dear Rich: I'm planning to set up a blog where I'll post multiple sketches, poems and short stories, but I don't want to go broke paying for copyright registrations. What is your view on just sending myself an email with each work in it as timestamped evidence that I created it, and then registering the works in big groups once or twice a year? The Dear Rich Staff is always curious about people who send things to themselves as a form of legal maneuvering. On the one hand, we don't think it's a worthwhile form of protection. On the other hand, we can understand the desire to get mail. In fact we can really understand the desire ever since the USPS completely screwed up our three change of address forms (and we're including the one we did online and paid a dollar for). When the USPS called us to explain the problems -- which they apparently can't fix -- they gave us such a weird explanation that we're wondering if maybe they outsourced customer service to District 9. As a result, we instituted our own mail-forwarding system in which we periodically return to our previous address and plead for our copies of Patternworks and California Prison Focus.
Right, you had a question ... Date-stamped emails and letters won't offer much in the way of copyright protection because at best -- and this would still require expert validation -- they prove only that you sent something to yourself on or around a certain date.(They don't prove that you actually created the work). Copyright disputes are rarely about who created something first (you may be confusing them with patent disputes although the poor-man's patent also won't protect you). Copyright disputes are about whether someone had access to your work and copied it. Since you're posting this material in a blog, you should be able to demonstrate that the work is yours and there should be ample ways to prove when you first published it using cached or archived Internet pages. Finally, in case you missed our posts on the subject, you get copyright automatically once you create the work. You really only need to register copyright as a proactive step if you believe your work will be infringed. We discussed strategies for copyright protection of blogs in an earlier entry.